All summer we've been hearing about how the character Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace is a slight on blacks, due to his accent and subservient demeanor. And while the Jar Jar watermelon fruit wraps and Jar Jar spearthrowing refrigerator magnets being marketed might seem to back up this perception, it's all a smokescreen for a deeper, uglier, and more endemic form of racism on this planet.
I'm addressing, of course, the vicious, bigoted pattern of lizard-hate in the culture, and in the media.
The Phantom Menace doesn't just contain one speciesist character, it slurs the entire reptilian phylum. Lucas' Naboo lizards have lazy boors like Boss Nass in charge, who shamefully flee their cities rather than attempt a defense, and actually put morons like Jar Jar in charge of what armies they do have, purely on the basis that his antics got the humans to like them. I'd be tempted to slap George Lucas upside his head for his ranch-bound mentality, but that would be like impregnating a woman without the sex: it misses half the point. He's only a movie maker; all of Hollywood needs to understand that there's an angry lizardoid population out there, and beyond that, all humankind had better wise up to it, too.
While Dragonheart held out some hope for increased understanding, it still remains true that the typical roles for a lizardoid in Hollywood scripts appear as "City-Eater", or "Mad Rampaging Beast". Films like Godzilla, The Lost World: Jurassic Park 2, and Lake Placid have done nothing but exascerbate this perception.
The game industry does no better by the lizard community. Case in point, in Larry Elmore's new RPG, Sovereign Stone, every race is described showing their strengths, and delivering understanding to their weaknesses. All in all a well-balanced, fascinating game world until the lizard people come in. The "Taan" are described as "savage" and "gutteral", and their breeding with other races is described as "an unhallowed union." Hey! My mother was human, and my parents loved each other! I mean, come on, the game even ennobles orcs with a code of honor, but reptiles still have to sit in the back of the book. I thought we were beyond all that Snarfquest "they want our women" level of thinking.
"Sure," I hear you say, "some games downplay the contribution of lizardkind, but what about Earthdawn?" CANCELLED. OUT OF PRINT. And you can't tell me it had nothing to do with there being smart, successful lizards in there.
Oh, there's more. Kids' minds are being poisoned from the get-go. Case in point: New Breed Comics' lizardbashing title Tohubohu is splashing images of hulking reptiles that have taken over the world, only to dress in cheesy '70s outfits and gobble up the hu-mans. Some quotes from the ad copy: "Humans have no rights in Bogg City and make great VICTIMS IN PIT FIGHTS!", "Tasty... Crunchy... SNACK FOOD!" And so on. Kids are getting their first impressions of lizardoids here, and it's negative from nose to tail. Where have all the reptilian superheroes gone? Lizard Wizard, dippy as he was, was the last one I saw, and that was ages ago. And don't even get me started about Land of the Lost's Sleestaks.
Well, the time to stand up has come. Lizards do more than buy dead flies in this country. We kill the threads descending from space, our bodies provide the economy's oil and gasoline reserves, and our tongues keep the locust-swarms of the world at bay.
One day, the sleeping dragon will awaken. And then you'll see the scales fly, bucko.
Opinions expressed by Iizak are not necessarily those of Aetherco. Lighten up, girlfriend!
I accidentally stumbled upon your essay on the Trampier mystery. I find it all rather bizarre, but events around Dave always were.
Though I always acknowledged Dave's clear talent, I must admit I never picked up on the subtexts in Wormy you've described. In hindsight I see what you mean, though I'd have to look more closely. But I have to seriously wonder if Dave consciously inserted all those arcane messages, references to his audience's escapist tendencies and such. It might have just been his artistic sensitivity and the zeitgheist.
It's been a long time. I had forgotten about Dave and Wormy, but they do merit attention.
I might be able to fill in a few voids in the story.
Many TSR people used to hang out at this seedy but happening tavern in Lake Geneva called "Jane's". It's long gone now, but way back when its bathroom's walls were completely graffittied with Dave Trampier's and Tom Wham's artwork -- it was amazing. Gary Gygax also was known to hang out there occasionally. Jane's catered to a kinda' rough crowd, but it was a VERY interesting place-- full of curious goings on. It was not for the faint of heart.
Back then (in TSR's protean days) Dave Trampier, Tom Wham and Kim Mohan were all friendly with one another.
Tramp caught me in a bar one night (not Jane's, it was closed by this time) and he was raving. Don't get me wrong, I like eccentrics and idiosyncratic characters, but Dave seemed wacked out of his mind-- paranoid, delusional or something (not just drunk, though he may have been); he was very agitated. I could hardly make sense of what he was trying to tell me-- it was all so incoherent and in many cases just wrong-headed (contrary to certain facts I was privy to), but none-the-less he was rather insistent. I subsequently got the impression that this agitated state of mind Dave seemed to be in wasn't an isolated incident, but reflected a more general problem he was having. I suspect that it complicated his involvement with Dragon Magazine. Dave's reality seemed to be all his own at that time. He was being extremely creative and diligent in his artwork, but he chafed at or ignored many of the conventions and compromises the professional world demands of creators. Well, bully for him. I appreciate the dilemma he likely faced.
I think there was suppose to be a big Wormy compilation that fell through too. Seems to me Dave was counting on that and he was very disappointed when it didn't happen. Dave's uncompromising, somewhat confrontation attitude must have contributed to his book's demise. Whereas, Kim and he once were on social terms, by then I don't think they got along with each other very well if at all.
Name withheld by request. Aetherco has been able to substantiate the source of this letter as a TSR insider, but not, of course, whether any of the details are true. David Trampier remains missing.
After months and years of struggling to get off the ground, Pardee Games' Chebache is finally out there, entertaining the masses.
The name derives from three of the great classic games of the Western Hemisphere, Chess, Backgammon, and Checkers, and employs strategy and rules from each. The Pardee team has exhaustively playtested the game, and it was hailed by GAMES Magazine as one of the top ten board games of the year.
And while Chebache is a great combo, what about super size? Why stop with just the three best board games when we can have the best family card game and best dice game ever be part of the package? Steve Jackson's Knightmare Chess has won a loyal following. Surely the same principle of screwing around with a ruleset can be applied to Chebache.
Thus, Aetherco is considering pursuing Pardee, Buccaneer/Heartbreaker, and TSR for the rights to develop CHEBACHESUPDRAG, the game with nearly everything.
Here's how it works: Players take the persona of generals fighting a magic war with elves, goblins and dwarves for dominion over the Super Nova Universe only in this version of the universe, all parties agree to hunt down proxy people on a titantic Chebache board, here symbolized by the pieces.
In the opening moves, the traditional Chebache pieces unfold the time-tested strategy of the ages.
Then, as a twist, Tlisk telepaths and planetary shields, and Antarean economic maneuvers impinge on the peaceful migratory pieces, waylaying them at unawares.
Finally, black and red mana, plainly abundant from the colors on the board, are employed to summon Death Dragons and Firewalkers to kill and maim pieces as they please.
Considering the deadly elements introduced, the victory conditions are now either the first player to get a piece across no-man's land alive, or the player who successfully exterminates all his opponent's checkers.
Shortly after Chebachesupdrag's release, watch for alpha tests of ADVANCED CHEBACHESUPDRAG CORPS, which will incorporate roleplaying, and a wargaming element, detailed down to battalion level.
Until next time... "Keep watching the dice."